Gilbert wants Belgian national title

Omega Pharma rider looking for success on hilly course

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) finished second to Tom Boonen in the 2009 Belgian national road race championships and was third in 2007, but is determined to finally pull on the red, yellow and black jersey this year.

Boonen is out of action due to his knee injury but Gilbert faces other rivals this year on a tough course around Leuven, north-east of Brussels.

The classy hilly classics rider will not ride the Tour de France because he is focusing on the world championships in September but wants the national title because the race is on what he calls his home course. But after he previous placings and his unlucky puncture at the Tour of Belgium, he feels it is the right place to step and finally take the Belgian title.

"This time things are different. I'm the favourite, the course is around my home, I'm riding in front of my supporters and so there's more pressure," he told the Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure.

"I'm sorry that Tom Boonen isn't riding and it will mean that the Quick Step will have to change it tactics for the race. Now people like Devolder and Devenijns will have to try and attack because they won't have much chance in a sprint."

Gilbert is not worried about a possible rivalry with his own teammate and fellow Wallonne Greg Van Avermaet.

"I spoke to him on Wednesday, I know he's ambitious. Along with Roelandts, we're the three riders in our team that can really win the race. We should just got in each other's way and take advantage and win."

"Of course, it's not an easy race to ride. Before a big classic, you know roughly what's going to happen. Here, anything can happen. After just three laps and a group of 20 riders can get away, with six teammates in it. You can be national champion without really being at 100%, which is not like the Tour of Flanders."

"This race isn't the same level as a ProTour race. There are some moments when you can catch your breath. My biggest rivals is Bjorn Leukemans but Steegmans is going well too, as is Maxime Monfort. Then there are the young guys from Vlaanderen too."

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